TAMIL NADU

Cargo clearance system hits trade, traffic

CHENNAI DEC. 7. Delay in according clearance to inward-bound cargo and the resultant pile-up of container-laden trailers on the stretch leading to the `O' yard at the Chennai port are causing concern to traders.

"It takes many hours and at times even days for the containers to reach the `O' yard and for them to be examined before being allowed to go out," an importer said.

With the port regulating the entry and exit of the container-laden vehicles through only one gate, smooth flow of traffic on the roads outside is also affected. One small solace, however, is the recent decision of the port allowing the use of another gate for empty containers.

The problem, which has financial repercussions for traders, especially for those dealing in perishable goods, has the potential to spoil the gains that the port made with an improvement in the turnaround time for container vessels.

Mainline vessels started calling at the port within a year after the privatisation of its container terminal, which is operated by a special purpose vehicle — Chennai Container Terminal Limited (CCTL) — formed by the consortium led by P and O. The `O' yard is under CCTL control and it is where the Customs Department examines the inward and outward-bound containers.

The issue, sources said, could be easily handled if the Customs allowed examination of the incoming boxes at the place allotted within the `O' yard for inspecting export-oriented containers.

"Comparatively the number of export containers are negligible at the yard, but the space earmarked for them — enough to accommodate about 45 containers — remains idle, even as the incoming boxes wait in long queues outside," a trade member said. Therefore, scenes of frayed tempers and heated arguments between the truckers and the security staff of the yard are common, even as the trade finds the option of taking the boxes to a container freight station costly.

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